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An ACM Queue Publication

The way we develop software struggles to keep pace with changes in technology and business. Even with the rise of agile, people still flip-flop from one branded method to another, throwing away the good with the bad and behaving more like religious cultists than like scientists.

This article explains why we need to break out of this repetitive dysfunctional behavior, and it introduces Essence, a new way of thinking that promises to free the practices from their method prisons and thus enable true learning organizations.

Is there a single method for the Internet of things?

The Industrial Internet Consortium predicts the IoT (Internet of Things) will become the third technological revolution after the Industrial Revolution and the Internet Revolution. Its impact across all industries and businesses can hardly be imagined. Existing software (business, telecom, aerospace, defense, etc.) is expected to be modified or redesigned, and a huge amount of new software, solving new problems, will have to be developed. As a consequence, the software industry should welcome new and better methods.

This article makes the case that to be a major player in this space you will need a multitude of methods, not just a single one. Existing popular approaches such as Scrum and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) may be part of the future, but you will also need many new methods and practices—some of which aren’t even known today. Extending a single method to incorporate all that is needed would result in something that is way too big and unwieldy. Instead, the new OMG (Object Management Group) standard Essence can be used to describe modular practices that can be composed together to form a multitude of methods, not only to provide for all of today’s needs, but also to be prepared for whatever the future may bring.

ABC of Essentialization

An ABC Guide to Leveraging Adaptive, Bite-Sized, Composable Practices

To be agile as teams, we need to adjust our approach to meet our immediate challenges and needs. To be agile as an organization, we need to learn collectively and evolve our approach over time to support our evolving mission, so that we continue to excel in an ever-changing environment.

We would not call a TV set “adaptive” if, in order to adjust the volume, we had to throw it away and replace it with a model with a different volume setting. So why are we prepared to accept process frameworks that leave us in a similar predicament every time we want to improve our product development performance as an organization?

Essence is instrumental in moving software development toward a true engineering discipline

Industrial-­scale agile requires much more than just being able to scale agile. It also means taking a disciplined approach to ensuring that our IT investments are resulting in sustainable benefits for both the producing organization and its customers. This involves adopting a different approach to many aspects of agility. We need to look beyond small-­scale agile, beyond independent competitive islands of agile excellence, beyond individual craftsmanship and heroic teams, and beyond the short-­term, instant gratification that seems to be the focus of many well-­intentioned but self-­centered agile teams. It is this adoption of a more holistic approach that we call moving from craft to engineering.

This paper is published at acm.org.

Assess the Health of this Critical Capability

Key to realizing benefits from agile is strong customer representation through empowered Product Ownership – to guide the team in delivering a solution that maximizes end-user value. Our Product Ownership Health Check provides a simple but powerful tool to assess the health of this critical capability, and highlight remedial actions and improvement opportunities.

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